It seems every new movie is based on a book series. This isn’t necessarily bad as it means people are reading the novels for Hollywood to take notice. Purchasing the rights, Tinsletown is forever hopeful of starting a new franchise. ‘The Maze Runner’ is the latest. Based on James Dashner’s book, the film version has the potential to rake in box-office dollars. As long as it leads to more readers, it can’t be too awful as the art of the written word refuses to go out of style.
Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up wondering where he is. Trapped in a huge maze with a group of boys, his memories of how he got there are blurred. Uncovering his past via clues found in the maze, he slowly believes he is in it for a reason. Helped by his new friends, Thomas attempts to escape the labyrinth and discover its shocking secrets.
Taking its cue from recent franchises such as ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘The Maze Runner’ may seem overly familiar. It has the requisite good looking people in peril controlled by outside forces. It also has plenty of action and obvious set-ups for future sequels. Making it stand out is the utilisation of an interesting premise. As the group move around the maze’s vast labyrinths, revealed secrets and tested loyalties threaten the group’s solidarity. Helping to add nuances to potentially one-dimensional characters, the performers rise to the challenge with good skill.
Wes Ball directs the action and drama with intensity. The way he increases physical and emotional tension is deftly handled showing some flair in avoiding any predictability. The enclosed spaces in which the characters find themselves produce a melting pot of clashing personalities which the film uses to advantage. Mixing desolate and lush scenery provide contrasts to the despair and hope all feel. The character’s steely determination in freeing themselves from the nightmare also becomes palatable.
Whilst having a feel of a typical Hollywood ‘production line’ product, ‘The Maze Runner’ settles into its own groove. It isn’t always perfect but leaves enough intrigue to care what happens next with a sequel sure to build upon its forebear’s success.
Rating out of 10: 7
Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller are masters of their chosen professions. The former has built a steady career as director of cult hits such as ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ and the ‘Spy Kids’ films. The latter is renowned for his work in comic books such as the seminal classic ‘The Dark Knight Returns’. Together they are a formidable team as ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ proves. A sequel to their 2005 movie, it continues showing how their visual and story-telling dynamic sets them apart from less stellar creative types.
Sin City is a place of contrasts. Beneath its veneer of glamour lies a maelstrom of violence and decay. One of its newest inhabitants is Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a gambler looking to make a big score. His dangerous story is one of many with others including Marv (Mickey Rourke), Dwight (Josh Brolin) and Nancy (Jessica Alba) along for the ride. Each has their role to play in the darkness enveloping a city thriving on crime and plenty of sin.
Formed around a quartet of stories, ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ is an ode to classic film noir. Full of duplicitous ladies and rugged men, their actions are fuelled by lust and greed. Running the gamut of the Seven Deadly Sins, the city they inhabit oversees their dramas with a baleful eye. The performances generally match the quality of the stories with a few actors over-playing their roles. Whilst offering more style over substance, ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ is a worthy match to its predecessor.
Making it memorable is the rich visuals. The infrequent neon tinged colours seem to intrude in the black and white universe on display. When colours appear they infuse more power into scenes. This goes some way in masking some of ‘Sin City’s’ mis-steps with the often cartoonish violence detracting from the gritty atmosphere. Kudos goes to Rodriguez and Miller for doing something different with a noble failure better than an over-rated and dull success.
‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ makes good use of format and characters. It also shows why Rodriguez and Miller have stayed the distance with their imaginative flair for fantastical visions always something to appreciate.
Rating out of 10: 7